Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Faith Formation at 11 AM Sunday Morning

Two months into our 11 a.m. Sunday Faith Formation Groups for all Ages, we have six young people’s groups and five adult groups meeting each week, with an additional parenting group that meets on first Sundays. All groups are led by two co-facilitators each week, and most use curriculum developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association, adapted for our Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church context. Because having numerous Adult Faith Formation Groups is still so new for us, here is an overview.

Every week we offer “WELCOME,” a gathering for first time visitors.

Every week, we offer one of the following “BEGIN” sessions on a rotating basis, so that each session is offered roughly once a month. These sessions were initially intended for relative newcomers but folks who have been in the church for quite some time have attended and found them very informative and enlightening. Everyone is welcome.

1. Where do we come from? (UU history)
1. How do we grow in faith? (UU Religious Education)
2. How do we live in the world? (UU Social Justice)
3. How are decisions made? (UU Polity)

We have a third gathering each week, one of the six “GROW” sessions listed below. This series is intended for those who have been in the church awhile but have not been involved in much religious education other than perhaps the BEGIN sessions listed above. Each GROW session allows participants to sample a particular curricula that we recommend for ongoing groups. At the conclusion of each GROW session, the facilitators pass around a sign-up sheet for those who are interested in forming an ongoing group using the curriculum that was sampled that day. The form asks people to identify their best days and times to meet. When six or more people sign up for the same curriculum and can meet at the same time, we find co-leaders and form a new “DEEPEN” group.

1. Non Violent or Compassionate Communication
2. Spiritual Practice
3. Social Justice
4. “What do I mean when I say I am a UU?”
5. Discovering our Personal Gifts
6. Learn, Serve, Care—Home Groups

The next step on our Adult Faith Formation Path, “DEEPEN” is for going deeper into a given topic or practice with a group that meets together on an ongoing basis, over time. Our most recent “DEEPEN” group, “Spirit in Practice,” just started in November (the result of people signing up for more at the conclusion of a Spiritual Practice session in the “GROW” series.) All groups are open to anyone who would like to join in at any time.

1. Afterthoughts and Preview—every Sunday
2. Spirit in Practice—every Sunday
3. The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting—first Sundays of each month

To date: 69 adults have attended at least one 11 a.m. Adult Faith Formation session.
27 volunteers have co-facilitated one or more sessions.
Average attendance: 20 participants.
Nov. 7 was our highest attendance to date w/ 35 participants.

This is a snapshot of 11 a.m. Sundays, at age two months. What we have accomplished, thus far, has been possible because of the cooperation, patience, vision, presence, persistence, and skills of the team of co-facilitators. My deep gratitude to them. They are:

Marty Adler-Jasny
Gina Grubb
Harold Waddle
David Holt
Carl Bretz
Sarah Johnson
Claudia Earhart
David Savoie
Linda Shissler
Judy Bocknek
Brenda Parker
Anne Scott
Jen Stark
JoAnn Garrett
Liz Peelle
April Dixon
Annie Golson
Ernie Burress
Martin Bauer
Angelina Carpenter
Martha Deaderick
Trish Holst
Donna Bass
Robin Toth
Anne Parks Johnson

This 11 a.m. hour is a work in progress as we continue to build a “Learning Community which fosters the lifelong development of spiritual and ethical Unitarian Universalists” (Goal 2 of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church Long Range Plan.) The Adult Faith Formation Team members are listed below. They welcome new members of the team as well as any and everyone’s suggestions and support in shaping adult faith formation opportunities for the congregation.

David Savoie, chair
Ann Ragan, secretary
April Dixon
Robin Toth
Peter Lorenz
Kim Kasten
Linda Shissler

In faithful and fruitful partnership,

Tandy Scheffler, Director of Faith Formation
11/14/ 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


As I packed for New Orleans and the 2010 LREDA Fall Conference, the annual gathering of Unitarian Universalist religious educators from the United States and Canada, I tucked in work gloves, ball cap, and aging athletic shoes tucked. I was eager to finally put in some work-service time post-Katrina.

When I picked up my registration packet at the conference hotel, I learned that my assignment was "Education." Our group was to help with a book drive project for "Liberation through Education," a non-profit organization that "assists educators by inspiring children to develop personal identity, strong values, and social skills."

The first morning of the conference I boarded a bus along with eighteen or so others. At our first destination, we learned that the location for our project had changed. We headed for a second address. When we got there, we were all a bit puzzled. We had stopped at the driveway of a large brick home in an upscale older neighborhood.

We had arrived at the home of the founder/director of "Liberation through Education's." Carolyn Stowe greeted us and welcomed us onto the expansive covered patio of her home. Large porch fans whirred overhead, and we could see the backyard swimming pool through the arched patio openings. A number of computers were set up at a large dining room table. Plastic bins filled with books sat on the floor nearby. Boxes were stacked along a couple of the back walls.

Carolyn graciously opened her home to us, inviting us to please make ourselves at home. She had prepared drinks and snacks, and had made pralines for us. A very warm and vibrant person, Carolyn came alive telling us about her own childhood and her mission to help at-risk children break the cycle of lack of education and poverty, as she and one of her brothers had been fortunate enough to do. She shared how, as a child, being singled out for hand-outs had made her feel shamed, but information had made her feel empowered. When she was in sixth grade, everyone in her class received dental floss and instructions in how and why to use it. Carolyn had never seen floss before, but she took it home and thus began a lifetime of good dental hygiene. In her own words, "(I) was able to overcome the social stigmas and cyclical paths I was groomed to succumb to."

I am an educator with fourteen years' experience in the public schools and many additional years as a volunteer tutor and "Big Sister." I have witnessed and worried over the vast disparity in children's home-life and therefore their opportunities. I have struggled with what more we need to do to effectively bridge this gap in our classrooms. "Liberation through Education," with their slogan "ProCURING SOCIAL skILLS," made so much sense to me.

Our band of eighteen or so, sorted books by age groups and catalogued them, in preparation for a Book Giveaway event. We stayed just a few hours with Carolyn and her family, during which we also shared conversation and lunch. We worked solidly, but I cannot say I broke a sweat or even that my hands were grimy or tired. I had a lovely time. When we left, Carolyn and her children even gave each of us a treat bag to take home!

I admit that at first I was disappointed to have had a lovely time, not to have broken a sweat or gotten my hands dirty. Upon reflection, I realized that my disappointment says much more about me than it does about the conference planning. That was my stuff....my image of what service in New Orleans OUGHT to look like....my grandiose idea of what I was there to do.

Upon reflection, I believe I had just the experience I needed. I had the good fortune to meet someone whose LifeWork addresses a societal challenge that has deeply concerned me and was instrumental in my choice of profession nearly forty years ago--offering each child a fair chance to become a contributing member of society. I was reminded rather convincingly that those who wish to be of service need to do these things: let go preconceived notions, show up, pay attention, and be willing to do the work before us, whatever it is. It makes no difference if we find ourselves in a lovely home or a run-down school or a community garden. It all needs doing.

I said that I would come back from New Orleans changed, and I have. I have eaten, digested, and taken into my being some very nutritious "humble pie" (along with some great fresh seafood.) And I am more convinced than ever that we can make a difference in this world, one small step at a time, working together, as long as we are open to doing whatever it is that needs doing.

~Tandy Scheffler